Tag Archives: Crimea

Ukrainian Su-25 Frogfoot Jet Flies At Ultra-Low Altitude Over The Sea Of Azov

A Ukrainian attack jet almost “buzzed” bathers on a beach at a popular resort town in southeastern Ukraine amid growing tensions with Russia in the Sea of Azov.

Su-25 attack jets are particularly comfortable at very low altitudes and the Ukrainian Frogfoots often fly at low-level as part of their Close Air Support training.

Indeed, we have published many videos showing the Ukrainian Su-25s involved in treetop navigations and ultra-low level flyovers in the past. Here’s a clip reportedly filmed last Friday by vacationers at Kirillovka, a resort town on the Sea of Azov, in southeastern Ukraine, some 65 km from the border with Russia in Crimea in the southwest, and about 140 km southwest of the breakaway Donetsk region.

According to Sputnik News media outlet, the attack aircraft was involved in Ukrainian border guard drills in the Sea of Azov, a region of raising tensions with Moscow: in March, Ukraine’s border guards detained a Russian fishing boat. Russia accused Ukraine or ‘state piracy’ and last week, Russia detained two Ukrainian fishermen accused of poaching, the Russian State-sponsored reported.

By the way, the short video proves the Su-25 is a really quiet jet aircraft, isn’t it?

Actually, low level flying is not only a Frogfoot jets prerogative. Take a look at the following episodes of the “Ukrainian low level activity saga” we have posted here at The Aviationist: a Ukrainian Mig-29 overflying pro-Russia separatist blocking rails; an Ilyushin Il-76 buzzing some Su-25s (and the Frogfoots returning the favor while buzzing the tower); here’s an Mi-17 helicopter flying among the cars on a highway and another fully armed Mig-29 Fulcrum in the livery of the Ukrainian Falcons aerobatic display team flying over an apron at an airbase in Ukraine; here’s a Su-25 flying low over the heads of a group of female soldiers posing for a photograph and then performing an aileron roll; and here you can see a Su-27 performing a low pass after take off.

H/T Lasse Holmstrom for the heads-up!

Eyes On Crimea: U.S. Intelligence Gathering Aircraft Increasingly Flying Over the Black Sea

Online flight tracking suggests increase in missions flown by U.S. manned and unmanned aircraft near Crimea.

It’s no secret that U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) belonging to the 9th Operations Group/Detachment 4th of the U.S. Air Force deployed to Sigonella from Beale Air Force Base, California, frequently operate over the Black Sea.

The first reports of the American gigantic drone’s activities near Crimea and Ukraine date back to April 2015, when Gen. Andrei Kartapolov, Chief of the Main Department for Operations at the Russian General Staff, said that American high-altitude long-range drones were regularly spotted over the Black Sea. Still, it wasn’t until Oct. 15 that one RQ-4 popped up on flight tracking websites, as it performed its 17-hour mission over Bulgaria to the Black Sea, close to Crimea, off Sochi, over Ukraine and then back to Sigonella. It was the first “public” appearance of the Global Hawk in that area and a confirmation of a renewed (or at least “open”) interest in the Russian activities in the Crimean area.

What in the beginning seemed to be sporadic visits, have gradually become regular missions, so much so, it’s no surprise hearing of a Global Hawk quietly tracking off Sevastopol or east of Odessa as it performs an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) mission quietly flying at 53K feet or above, in international airspace. Indeed, as often reported here at The Aviationist, RQ-4 drones can be regularly tracked online or using commercial ADS-B receivers like those feeding the famous Flightradar24.com, PlaneFinder.net or Global ADSB Exchange websites, as well as closed websites like 360radar, PlanePlotter, Adsbhub.org etc, as they (most probably) point imagery intelligence (IMINT) sensors at the Russian bases in Crimea.

Noteworthy, such activities (both in the Black Sea and the Baltic region) have significantly increased lately, showing another interesting trend: they seem to involve more assets at the same time. Even though it’s not clear whether the ISR platforms fly cooperatively (although it seems quite reasonable considered how spyplanes operate in other theaters), U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon and EP-3E aircraft can often be “spotted” while they operate close to Crimea during the same time slots. For instance, based on logs collected by our friend and famous ADS-B / ModeS tracking enthusiast @CivMilAir, this has happened on Jan. 9, Jan. 25 and more, recently, on Apr. 3, whereas on Feb. 5, Feb. 16 and Mar. 11 the Global Hawk has operated alone. By comparison, during the same period in 2017 (first quarter, from January to March) no Global Hawk mission was tracked or reported. Needless to say, these “statistics” are purely based on MLAT (Multi Lateration) logs: there might have been traffic neither “advertising” their position via ADS-B nor triangulated by ground stations exploiting the Mode-S transponder signals, operating in “due regard” (with transponder switched off, with no radio comms with the ATC control, using the concept of “see and avoid”). However, analysis of Global Hawk and other ISR aircraft activity using Open Source data seems to suggests a clear increase in “Crimean missions”.

Here are some examples (but if you spend some time on @CivMilAir’s timeline on Twitter you’ll find more occurrences on the above mentioned dates). A few days ago, Apr. 3, 2018:

Jan. 9, 2018:

Dealing with the reason why these aircraft can be tracked online, we have discussed this a lot of times.

As reported several times here, it’s difficult to say whether the drone can be tracked online by accident or not. But considered that the risk of breaking OPSEC with an inaccurate use of ADS-B transponders is very well-known, it seems quite reasonable to believe that the unmanned aircraft purposely broadcasts its position for everyone to see, to let everyone know it is over there. Since “standard” air defense radars would be able to see them regardless to whether they have the transponder on or off, increasingly, RC-135s and other strategic ISR platforms, including the Global Hawks, operate over highly sensitive regions, such as Ukraine or the Korean Peninsula, with the ADS-B and Mode-S turned on, so that even commercial off the shelf receivers (or public tracking websites) can monitor them.

Russian spyplanes can be regularly tracked as well: the Tu-214R, Russia’s most advanced intelligence gathering aircraft deployed to Syria and flew along the border with Ukraine with its transponder turned on.

Interestingly, according to NATO sources who wish to remain anonymous, Global Hawk missions around Crimea regularly cause the Russian Air Force to scramble Su-30 (previously Su-27SM) Flankers from Krimsk or Belbek that always attempt to get somehow close to, but well below, the high-flying drones.

A Flanker gets close to an EP-3E ARIES II flying off Crimea on Jan. 29, 2018.

H/T @CivMilAir for researching the topic and providing the logs.

A new Russian spyplane skirted the airspace of eastern Ukraine today

A new Russian Air Force Tu-214R could be tracked as it flew close to the border with Ukraine.

Social media are going frenzy after a Russian Air Force Tu-214R was spotted and tracked on the Internet, by means of its ADS-B transponder signals detected by Flightradar24 collecting stations, as it flew from Kazan to Crimea and back, closely following the border between Russia and Ukraine on Jun. 18.

Built by the Kazan Aircraft Production Association’s (KAPO) and flown from the company’s airfield, the Tu-214R registered RA-64514, serial number 42305014, is the second of the two examples of this kind of aircraft built under contract with Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

The Tu-214R is a Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft.

It is equipped with all-weather radar systems and electro optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground: these images are then used to identify and map the position of the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden. Furthermore the aircraft is known to carry sensor packages to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) missions: the antennae of the Tu-214R can intercept the signals emitted by the enemy systems (radars, aircraft, radios, combat vehicles, mobile phones etc) so as it can build the EOB (Electronic Order of Battle) of the enemy forces: where the enemy forces are operating, what kind of equipment they are using and, by eavesdropping into their radio/phone communications, what they are doing and what will be their next move.

This kind of aircraft usually operate in this way: it either loiters/circles in a friendly or uncontested airspace at high altitude and at safe distance from the target(s) of interest or along the border of the enemy country.

The aircraft is probably not yet operational and the last images published on the Web show that the aircraft was not given the standard white paint color scheme yet.

The aircraft features the same types of external bulges of other very well known intelligence gathering planes, as the U.S. RC-135 or the Israeli B-707 with the Phalcon system, along with minor differences with the first operative Tu-214R, RA-64511, serial number 42305011.

What the spyplane was doing along the border is difficult to say, even though it’s quite likely that it was testing some of its onboard sensor packages against real targets….those located in eastern Ukraine.

Differences Tu-214R

This is not the first time a Russian Air Force special mission aircraft appears on Flightradar24.com. Putin’s doomsday planes can often be tracked on the Internet.

Top image credit: Flightradar24 screenshot via @AirForceFreak74 (H/T for spotting the plane).

 

Video from U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea as Russian Su-24 Fencer flies by

Here’s the video of  a Russian Su-24 flying close to USS Ross in international waters in the Black Sea.

Few days ago, Russian media reported that Russian Navy Su-24 Fencer jets scrambled from an airbase in Crimea “forced” a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea to leave for neutral waters while approaching Russia’s territorial waters.

Russian outlets claimed that USS Ross turned around because it was scared by the sight of the Su-24, a type of aircraft involved in a similar incident with USS Donald Cook, an American destroyer allegedly “blinded” by a Fencer in the Black Sea in April 2014.

Although, Russian flybys performed by Su-30s and Su-24s aircraft from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet launched from Crimea, have been reported by NATO warships operating in the Black Sea previously, the whole story of USS Ross deviating from its planned operations because of a Fencer immediately appeared to be unlikely and quite hard to believe.

Then came the official statement by U.S. Navy.

According to the U.S. 6th Fleet: “USS Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations. The conduct of her crew has been and continues to be professional. Ross’ Sailors observed that the SU 24 carried no weapons – wings were “clean.”

And here’s the video that proves this version.

 

Russia’s newest Su-30 multirole jets and Su-24 bombers practiced attack runs on NATO warships in the Black Sea

Russia’s newest multirole fighter jets have been using NATO ships in the Black Sea to practice attack scenarios.

Russian Su-30s and Su-24s aircraft from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea have been conducting attack runs on NATO warships operating in the Black Sea, Sputnik News reported.

According to the Russian media outlet, the jets, launched from Novofedorvka, an airbase captured on Mar. 22, 2014, in western Crimea peninsula 70 kilometres north of Sevastopol, have been monitoring the movements of two ships, the American USS Vicksburg (a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser), and Turkey’s frigate The Turgut Reis.

On Mar. 3, a formation made of three Su-30s and four Su-24s overflew the NATO ships “to practice penetrating anti-air systems,” as affirmed by a source at the Sevastopol naval base who spoke to the Russian state agency.

Interestingly, the Russians believe these missions are used for training purposes by both sides: “These ships’ crews are doubtlessly conducting exercises in repelling air attacks from our planes, which gives our pilots the opportunity to gain experience in maneuvering and conducting aerial reconnaissance both in the range of anti-air systems and outside their range.”

Close encounters between Russian planes and NATO ships around the globe happen quite frequently (do you of Tu-95 Bear flew quite close to USS Nimitz in the Pacific?); they have just become a bit more frequent in the Black Sea since last year’s Russian annexation of Crimea: following the invasion of the peninsula, Moscow has moved combat planes to the local airbases and some of them pay visit to the NATO frigates in the vicinity every now and then.

In April 2014, a Su-24 Fencer flew multiple passes at 500 feet above sea level, within 1,000 yards of the USS Donald Cook, the U.S. Navy destroyer operating in the Black Sea at that time: a behaviour that the ship commander considered “provocative and inconsistent with international agreements.”

Anyway, according to a source at the Russia’s Chief Naval Staff quoted by TASS, the two NATO warships will be joined in the next few hours by the Italian frigate Aliseo and Canada’s frigate The Fregerickton which are passing through the Black Sea straits.

More close encounters ahead?

H/T to Lasse Holmstrom and @SajeevJino for the heads-up

Image credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin via Wiki